soup curry, sake and whiskey in sapporo and otaru, japan
Sapporo and Otaru are both located in Japan's northernmost prefecture, Hokkaido.
Sapporo is the capital and largest city in Hokkaido, famous for it's beer of the same name. Sapporo beer is sold around the world, however Sapporo Classic beer is only sold in Hokkaido. Sapporo can be reached from New Chitose Airport, which takes around 45 minutes by train.
Otaru is seen as a commuter town to the capital city of Sapporo, which is 35 minutes away by train costing 640 Yen (£4.60/$5.70 USD). Having a long history of trade through its port, it is now popular for the wonderful canal flowing through the town.
I visited in March 2017.
Where to go in Sapporo
1. Suage Soup Curry
Suage is arguably the best Soup Curry restaurant in Sapporo, rated number 1 out of over 8000 restaurants on Tripadvisor. It is located on the 1st floor of the building (in Japan, it will be the 2nd floor, as ground floor is classed as floor 1).
Expect to queue. I arrived at 11.15 to see a queue of seven people, even though it doesn’t open until 11.30am. After placing the food order at 11.30, it took about 30 minutes for the food to arrive.
Soup Curry is essentially a curry sauce based soup with vegetables and meat. You can choose the spice level up to level 6, even though level 6 wasn’t that spicy.
The taste of the Soup Curry was amazing! Pictured above is the charcoal-grilled lamb with Hokkaido chicken and broccoli as an extra, and the crispy “Shiretoko” chicken and vegetables.
Soup Curry comes with vegetables (potato, carrots, egg, leaves) as standard, but you can choose to have optional extras.
Once you have finished queuing, the other customers also waiting to eat will be waiting outside the door of the restaurant, which means the restaurant has a relaxing atmosphere once inside. In some restaurants around Japan, I noticed people wait inside the restaurant, which makes you feel uncomfortable as while you are eating and talking, people are waiting in the queue observing you in hope you will finish soon.
The rice and cheese is a nice addition to the meal which I would recommend.
The pear lassie was amazing, and it is in limited stock. I would definitely recommend this, even though it is a little pricey at 400 Yen (£2.8/$3.5 USD).
The total of the bill came to 3,500 Yen (£25/$31 USD) for two meals, two drinks and one extra side.
The main Soup Curry dishes are 1,150 Yen (£8/$10) each.
Address: 7 Chome-1-1 Maruyama Nishimachi, Chūō-ku, Sapporo-shi, Hokkaidō 064-0944
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2. Soup Curry Okushiba Shoten Ekimaesoseiji
Another one of the most popular Soup Curry restaurants in Sapporo, Okushiba Shoten Ekimaesoseiji is in the basement floor of a building. Even though it feels like a hidden gem, again it comes with a queue. The queue has seats for customers to sit down on in a line outside the restaurant, and you can wait there with the menu to see what you wish to order before you get in. The staff will take your order when you have reached 1st/2nd/3rd in line for the queue, making the service very quick and efficient once you get inside.
While waiting in line towards the back of the queue, the staff showed me a piece of paper which essentially says choose your preference for seating: “on the counter/on the table/on the floor/anything is fine”. I was thinking on the floor! What kind of people who come to a nice restaurant would be happy to sit on the floor?
The Hokkaido soft drink (that is not fizzy) Katsugen is a drink that I would recommend here.
For two meals and two drinks with one extra dish (basil sausages), it came to a total of 3,820 Yen (£27/$34 USD)
The pictured order above was: tornado sausage curry + broccoli + basil sausage extra + white rice 220g and drink yuzu (lemon) lassie and soft chicken leg + broccoli + brown rice 220g) with Katsugen drink.
Address: 1-3 Kita 4-jo Nishi, Chuo-ku | B1F Hokuren Bldg, Sapporo
Not officially open until the 1st April 2017, this hidden bar is all about traditional Hokkaido food and drink. The young stylish owner, Takuma Ogawa, is a certified Sake navigator from the Sake service institute. This is the place to try Sake, which you can choose from either fruity or dry sake.
It opens everyday from 5pm to 2am, and serves delicious seafood and traditional Hokkaido food. It also serves good beer, and has a cool funky trendy vibe. This restaurant is the one to watch for young trendy locals, it reminds me of bars in London's Shoreditch.
The stand out feature of this bar is it's location, it's on the top floor of a building called Pencil. The building is in a pencil shape, with the top being the triangular space for Hiyamaru. The bar is set on two floors.
The address of the place can be seen on the above photo, which is Takuma's business card, which is a five minute walk from Odori station.
4. Daruma Honten
Above pictured is Jingisukan Daruma 4.4 ten, notice the customers waiting inside!
The above is food at Daruma Honten, I did not take a picture of the interior of the restaurant, it is a small space with diners sitting in a semi-circle.
Daruma is an established restaurant that has restaurants around Sapporo. It is known for it's Genghis Khan, which is a cooking style that is grilled on a round bowl with lamb and mutton. I ate in Daruma Honten, but a second Daruma restaurant, Jingisukan Daruma 4.4 ten is in close proximity. Daruma Honten was chosen because it was a shorter queue, and Daruma Honten makes people queue outside the restaurant rather than inside. After a long wait, I'd rather not be in Jingisukan Daruma 4.4 ten as other people would be eagerly observing those eating waiting for people to finish. With Honten, you can relax once you get a seat inside.
The bill came to 3,585 Yen (£25, $32 USD) for two main courses and two drinks (in terms of beer choice, only Kirin beer is available), and a extra side order of kimchi.
5. Sumibi Izakaya En
The best way to compare Izakaya is to see it as a version of Wetherspoon's in the UK, except people can smoke inside and you have to take your shoes off. It’s low price, local atmosphere and wide varied menu with mid-quality food is a place to rest, drink and eat for a few hours.
The particular Izakaya I went to was Sumibi Izakaya En, which is a chain of Izakaya restaurants. At my last count, there are 6 Sumibi Izakaya En restaurants in Sapporo. It was such a busy atmosphere, and I saw a group of businessmen in suits, where one was lying down sleeping seemingly from exhaustion, and nobody seemed to care or bother him!
The feature in Sumibi Izakaya En is an “all you can drink” where for you can pay 750 Yen (£5/$6.70 USD) per person for 90 minutes to have as many drinks as you want (it is a glass exchange system, so you can’t order them all at once!), or 980 Yen (£7/$8.80 USD) for 120 minutes.
It is really easy to get caught up into ordering many dishes, but it is an enjoyable experience.
Note that like most restaurants in Japan, there will be a table charge and the tax charge is not always explicit when ordering. With the table charge and tax, 7 food dishes (squid, octopus, cucumber, pork liver, cheese chicken, mackerel, chocolate pancake) and 10 drinks (standard beer x2, Sapporo beer x2, yuzu plum wine x2, kahlua milk x2, bulldog (an orange vodka cocktail), shandy) the bill came to a total of 4,923 Yen (£35/$44 USD).
The exact address of the branch shown on the pictures is: Japan, 〒060-0063 Hokkaidō, Sapporo-shi, Chūō-ku, Minami 3 Jōnishi, 4 Chome, 中央区南3条西4丁目20
Courtesy of Google, the outside of the branch looks like this:
Other mentions in Sapporo:
Jericho’s bar – It is a shame that I did not sit down to have a drink, as it is quite expensive (the night I arrived during a saxophone performance, it was 1000 Yen a drink), but some nights on performances that can rise. It’s a small live house bar on the basement floor. The only problem with this place is space, it was packed out when I walked inside. On quieter nights, the cozy intimate atmosphere could be a good experience.
Coffee shop Marley (pictured below) - a great place to have a rest and a coffee. The service and staff was excellent. The dark atmosphere and soothing music made it intimate. I enjoyed being there. More information on Coffee Shop Marley can be found on their Facebook page here.
Where to go in Otaru
1. Taki’s bar
Taki's bar is defined by the three of Taki’s loves in life: music, whiskey and motorcycles. The Harley Davidson driving guitarist, his bar shows his passion for whiskey, selling a huge range of whiskeys including the Sapporo brand Nikka whiskey. If you are not a fan of whiskey, his bar also has a range of spirits and cocktails that he can make.
Well worth a visit if you are in Otaru. Taki is a gentleman, with a soft spoken voice and a passion for what he does, he was the nicest person I met in Otaru.
A glass of the popular Japanese Nikka whiskey goes for around 900 Yen-1200Yen (£6/$8 USD-£8-$10 USD).
Address: 2 Chome-14-10 Inaho, Otaru, Hokkaido Prefecture 047-0032, Japan
Phone: +81 134-26-6820
2. Otaru Soko No.1
The way to try Otaru beer is to go to a German themed pub called Otaru Soko No.1. It is situated in a large building next to the canal, a perfect place after a walk around the canals to stay warm.
It’s huge, and is the main branch of their bars, with branches in Tokyo and Sapporo. The staff have very good English. Although this place serve food, I did not order any, as the menu was quite western, I don't see much point ordering western food in Japan! Otaru beer is great, it is a light refreshing beer making it easy to drink.
Drinks go up to 1000ml, of which is incredibly huge and heavy, but a great experience!
Where to stay in Sapporo? I stayed in both the T-mark City hotel and Nest hotel Odori, both are excellent value for money and comfortable hotels close to the city centre.